Opposition takes Taiwan presidency

Ma Ying-jeou from the KMT party is poised to take over as the next leader.

    Ma Ying-jeou's tenure is expected to boost economic ties with China [GALLO/GETTY]

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    US ships deploy ahead of vote

    Focus

    Taiwan's identity crisis

    "This election result is not a personal result, nor a victory for the KMT, it is a victory for all Taiwanese people," added Ying-jeou.

     

    His victory ends eight years of Democratic Progressive party (DPP) presidency under Chen  Shui-bian, who is stepping down after the maximum two terms, that was marked by recurring tensions with China over his pro-independence policies.

     
    Ying-jeou insisted that he was "a true Taiwanese," and while he favoured friendlier ties with China, Taiwan's biggest trading partner, he said he will not discuss reunification in any of his meetings with Beijing's leaders.
     
    He has pledged to work for closer ties with China, including a peace treaty to end decades of hostilities between Beijing and the self-ruled island.
     
    Reforms or identity
     
    Taiwanese voters had to decide whether to stick with a party that has struggled to improve ties with China, or switch to one that promises peace and greater profits from the island's giant neighbour.
     
    The election pitted Ying-jeou of the KMT party against Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive party (DPP).
     
    A turnout of more than 75 per cent cast their votes.

     

    Hsieh favoured formal independence while Ma Ying-jeou preferred eventual reunification once China embraces democracy.

     

    The two candidates had toughened their stances on China following Beijing's crackdown in Tibet.

     

    Economic issues

     

    However, analysts say Taiwan's faltering economy would have been the number one issue with voters.

     

    Both candidates advocate more direct flights, tourism and investment opportunities between Taiwan and China in order to improve the domestic economy.

     

    Taiwan candidates

    Frank Hsieh

     

    Candidate for ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)

     

    Propelled into politics after working as a defence lawyer for political dissidents in 1980

     

    Focused campaign on environmental issues, the poor and Taiwan's identity

     

    Has backed cautious opening of Taiwan-China economic links and hopes eventually to accelerate moves to make Taiwan a country distinct from China

     

    Ma Ying-jeou

     

    Candidate for nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) party

     

    Unseated Chen Shui-bian, the current president, as mayor of Taipei in 1998

     

    Focused campaign on reviving Taiwan's economy by introducing common market with mainland China

     

    Has advocated improving relations with China, signing a peace treaty and halting Taiwan's push for independence

    Al Jazeeera's Hamish MacDonald in Taipei reported that Taiwan's economy is an overriding theme in the elections.

     

    MacDonald said that there has been an increased awareness among Taiwanese voters that the island's economy is directly anchored to the growth of China.

     

    However, Beijing has imposed certain limits on conducting business transactions from Taiwan.

     

    "Taiwan has a growing economy, yet it lags behind its Asian neighbours," MacDonald reported.

     

    Ralph Cossa from Pacific Forum CSIS, a US based think tank, says:  "Domestic issues, such as the economy and corruption, are bigger than China or foreign policy."

     

    Meanwhile, the central election commission said that  Taiwan's two referendums on joining the
    United Nations had failed separately.

     

    The initiative, which asked whether Taiwan should seek to join the global body as "Taiwan" instead of its legal name, the Republic of China, had sparked statements of protest from China, which sees the move as a further move towards independence.

     

    Japan, Russia, France and the US had also criticised the referendum as unnecessarily provocative.

     

    In a sign, how sensitive the poll was, two US aircraft carriers had been deployed to an unspecified area near Taiwan during the election, for what US defence officials said was training exercises.

     

    In 1996, during Taiwan's first democratic presidential election, China fired a series of missiles into the Taiwan Strait, in a sabre-rattling gesture seen as trying to intimidate voters.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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